Topological active matter

Suraj Shankar, Anton Souslov, Mark J. Bowick, M. Cristina Marchetti, Vincenzo Vitelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Citations (SciVal)
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In active matter systems, individual constituents convert energy into non-conservative forces or motion at the microscale, leading to morphological features and transport properties that do not occur in equilibrium and that are robust against certain perturbations. In recent years, a fruitful method for analysing these features has been to use tools from topology. In this Review, we focus on topological defects and topologically protected edge modes, with an emphasis on the distinctive properties they acquire in active media. These paradigmatic examples represent two physically distinct classes of phenomena that are robust thanks to a common mathematical origin: the presence of topological invariants. Beyond active matter, our Review underscores the role of topological excitations in non-equilibrium settings of relevance, from open quantum systems to living matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-398
Number of pages19
JournalNature Reviews Physics
Issue number6
Early online date6 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work of M.J.B. was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grant no. NSF PHY-1748958 and the Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) programme, via grant no. DMREF-1435794. M.C.M. was primarily supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. DMR-2041459, with additional support from DMR-1720256 (iSuperSeed). S.S. is supported by the Harvard Society of Fellows. V.V. was supported by the Complex Dynamics and Systems programme of the Army Research Office under grant W911NF-19-1-0268, by the Simons Foundation and by the University of Chicago Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, which is funded by the National Science Foundation under award number DMR-2011854. S.S. and A.S. gratefully acknowledge discussions during the 2019 summer workshop on ‘Active and Driven Matter: Connecting Quantum and Classical Systems’ at the Aspen Center for Physics, which is supported by National Science Foundation grant PHY-1607611. The participation of A.S. at the Aspen Center for Physics was supported by the Simons Foundation. A.S. acknowledges the support of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through New Investigator Award no. EP/T000961/1 and of the Royal Society under grant no. RGS/R2/202135. The authors also acknowledge illuminating discussions throughout the virtual 2020 KITP programme on ‘Symmetry, Thermodynamics and Topology in Active Matter’, which was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grant no. NSF PHY-1748958. The authors thank M. Fruchart, C. Scheibner, G. Baardink and J. Binysh for their inspiring conversations and suggestions.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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